While we all have our challenges with MS products, (Just image search “Windows 8 memes” if you don’t know what I mean.) it’s not an overstatement to say that we’ve come upon new era in business intelligence. What used to require hundreds of hours of tedious work and deep database expertise can now be achieved in tens of hours by an Excel professional. I’m speaking, of course, about Power Pivot, and its accompanying suite of BI tools Microsoft calls Power BI. And it all starts with Excel.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Boring old Excel?” But don’t be too quick to look down your nose that the tried and true data-crunching workhorse. It has a new groove.
The Gamechanger: Power Pivot
Unbeknownst to many, Excel now contains a sophisticated data-model management engine that does away with the dreaded VLOOKUP and adds a powerful language called DAX for building analysis functions and aggregations. If you’ve trudged through the cumbersome waters of Excel’s traditional approach to data analysis, then Power Pivot will be a revelation. Many don’t realize that Excel files now contain two parts, the traditional Excel file, and a separate Power Pivot data model. All you have to do is turn it on! (Feel free to contact me with how-to questions.)
In the Excel data model, you can now create star and snowflake data schemas and then build pivot charts with data spanning multiple tables at once, all without writing a single VLOOKUP. Plus, you can do deep analysis using the DAX formula language, then produce beautiful tables and charts in the familiar Excel interface to easily communicate your findings.
Bringing it Home
While Excel has a limit of 1.2 million rows in its worksheets, it can now manage tables with tens or even hundreds of millions of rows in the Power Pivot data model. And because of advanced compression algorithms, Power Pivot is able to manage this data in memory. Why is this significant? Because running a report from a traditional database accessing tens of millions of records of data used to take minutes or hours, but can now can be done in seconds. In addition, such analysis and reporting used to require a skilled database professional, or a team of them. But now, small and medium businesses can train their Excel super-users to have in-house access to an elite level of business intelligence technology that was previously out of reach.
This new breed of BI tools, based in Excel, which is used by almost everyone in the business world – Mac or PC, is an important development for SMB’s. Already, businesses across the world are sharing their Power BI success stories, like this Seattle bar that saved $30k/year as a result of utilizing Power BI. If you are looking for the simplest, most cost-effective way to gain insights from your business data, you owe it to yourself to look into Power BI, rated No. 1 overall by Predictive Analytics Today.
If you have any questions about business intelligence or want to find out how Blue Margin uses Power BI to drive their business, feel free to contact Jon Thompson. He can be reached at 720-504-0017.
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